Leaders look at competing priorities and make hard decisions, sometimes the wrong ones. Here's literally a textbook case.

In 2017, state lawmakers approved a new system for licensing school teachers, creating more paths into the profession other than getting an education degree at a Minnesota college.

The system has four tiers that break down roughly like this: community expert, midcareer professional transitioning into teaching, newer teacher and master-mentor teacher. There are several entries to the first two tiers and opportunities to rise up to the higher tiers for better pay and benefits.

With Minnesota experiencing labor decline faster than most states and the nation as a whole, this system came along at the right time for schools. Most teachers are still certified the traditional way, but it has brought in more people at the margins, especially in special education.

Education Minnesota, the state's biggest teachers union, opposed the system before and after its implementation. And now, with the Democrats the union supports in control of the House, Senate and governor's office, bills are moving through the Legislature to kibosh it.

This is bad on the macroeconomic level. As I've said since I started as a columnist, Minnesotans need to make it easier to hire people, not harder.

It will also probably hurt efforts to diversify the teaching base, still one of the most lopsidedly white professions in the state.

People of color now account for a mere 6% of all teachers in the state. But that's up from 4% before establishing the new system.

"This tiered system is revolutionary," said Josh Crosson, executive director of EdAllies, a Minneapolis organization that represents student interests. "What the Legislature is really proposing is going back to the old system. How can we just have the system that we've always had? The one that has perpetually left teachers of color out of the profession?"

School districts want to stick with the new system, said Deb Henton, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. "They can point to really wonderful teachers who were able to get a teacher's license in a different format than perhaps people are used to," she said.

Before 2017, people who decided in midcareer to enter teaching had to take classes in a Minnesota college to get a license. But the teaching colleges and universities varied widely in their requirements.

In 2016, a report by the legislative auditor concluded that teacher licensing in Minnesota was filled with meaningless standards and urged lawmakers to overhaul the system. The result was the four tiers.

Education Minnesota views the new system as unfair to teachers who were certified by taking education courses in college, a spokesman said. At the time he signed the bill, then-Gov. Mark Dayton tried to side with the union by attempting a line-item veto. That ultimately led to a court case.

I bet a great number of Minnesota teachers are more open-minded about this matter than their union, especially the teachers who are seeing jobs go unfilled or who can't take time off because no substitutes are available.

But if teachers really do think this new system, after going through the courts and producing some early success, is still unfair, I have no sympathy. We all experience change over the course of a career. Back-in-my-day thinking is a waste of energy.

The union also points to an October memo from the U.S. Department of Education. The spokesman for the union said the memo indicates federal funding for special education will be jeopardized if teachers don't meet stricter certification requirements.

I don't read the memo that way, but I may not be right. However, if such pressure is coming from the federal level, Minnesotans shouldn't accept it. The state's demographic challenge is more extreme than the nation's, and our state leaders and members of Congress should push back on regulators who don't recognize that.

Education Minnesota is telling legislators to not let teachers rise from the second tier, the one created for people who enter teaching later in their life, to the third tier without taking courses from colleges or from the union itself.

The present system lets them rise if they do a good job teaching for three years. So far, Minnesota has had two years of those promotions, amounting to a few hundred out of the 58,000 full-time teachers in the state, with no evident problems.

At a House committee meeting on March 29, school administrators, charter school principals and teachers hired through the alternative paths spoke in favor of letting such advancement continue.

No one spoke in favor of the changes, but the House committee approved the bill the next day anyway. We'll see what House leaders and the Senate do in coming weeks.

Crosson said that when EdAllies told Democrats their vote would likely harm prospective teachers of color, legislators replied they would create other programs to recruit them. The state's current program to recruit teachers of color, called "Come Teach in Minnesota," brought in just six last school year, the Star Tribune reported a few months ago.

"We do know that tiered licensure is bringing teachers of color into the profession," Crosson said. "But also, why can't we do both? Why can't we leave pathways open for teachers of color and invest in new ideas? It shouldn't be an either-or."

The either-or equation that is uppermost in Democrats' minds is probably this: Either do what Education Minnesota says, or see its endorsements and campaign contributions go to someone else.